Located at the end of Ka’anapali Beach lies one of the best beginner snorkeling spots on Maui. The snorkel area is incredibly easy to access, teeming with marine life and is also known as one of the best places to cliff jump on Maui. The convenient location in Ka’anapali Beach Resort area offers a beautiful white sand beach and stunning ocean views. Snorkeling at Black Rock is within walking distance of many resorts and Whalers Village Shopping center where you’ll find excellent shopping, entertainment and dining options in a beautiful open air plaza.
The History of Black Rock
Ka’anapali was once a thriving community of native Hawaiian people and Black Rock cliff was a very sacred place. Known as Pu’u Keka’a or ‘the rolling hill’, the 15-foot cliff formation was created by an old lava flow. The Hawaiian people believed Black Rock was where the souls of the deceased would leap from this physical world into the spirit one. Every night at sundown, a ceremony is performed to commemorate the ancient Hawaiian Chiefs and their people. In this ritual, a cliff diver blows a conch shell, lights the torches that line the cliff, and leaps 15 feet into the cool water below.
How to get to Black Rock
Black Rock is located at the northern end of Ka’anapali Beach, directly in front of the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa. To get there, head north from Lahaina on Honoapi’ilani Highway, and take a left onto Ka’anapali Parkway where Whalers Village and the various resorts are located. The two easiest ways to access the beach are a small public parking garage (free) and Whalers Village parkade (must pay to park or get validation).
Public Parking at Black Rock
To access the public parking garage, continue straight on Ka’anapali parkway, past Whalers Village and Ka’anapali Beach Hotel until you see a white parking structure labeled ‘Public Beach Access’. Parking stalls are limited here, so it is recommended that you arrive early to secure a spot. From there, you will find the beach access pathway adjacent to the parking garage on the left that leads straight down to the beach.
Parking at Whalers Village Shopping Center
Another option is to pay for parking at Whalers Village shopping center. Parking validation is available at participating stores and restaurants in the complex so if you plan to shop or dine post snorkel, this is a viable option.
I arrived for snorkeling at Black Rock around 12 o’clock in the afternoon and was lucky enough to find free parking in the public parking garage close to the beach. From there I made my way down to the ocean. The beach was fairly crowded due to the multiple resorts and hotels nearby and it being December, but I still managed to get a decent spot close to the rocks at the end of the beach. I set up my umbrella and beach chair, threw down my mask and fins and enjoyed watching people jump off the cliff while I applied my reef-safe sunscreen. I was able to easily enter the ocean thanks to a sandy shoreline and instantly begin my adventure, snorkeling at Black Rock.
Snorkeling at Black Rock
I was incredibly impressed with the snorkeling at Black Rock. The area around the rocky outcrop was filled with many fish and other colorful sea creatures. We spotted humpback whales from shore and were thrilled to hear them sing while snorkeling at Black Rock. I made sure to rent good fins and snorkel gear as this location is known to have strong currents near the end of the peninsula and occasional waves as you get closer to the wall. The depth of the water is roughly 5-25 feet (depending on how far you swim out), a comfortable 75 degrees and insanely clear. This is a popular place to snorkel so don’t expect to experience it alone.
Tips for Snorkeling at Black Rock
- The further out you go, the less crowded it gets. You can also avoid the crowds by snorkeling in the morning before the beach gets busy
- Beginners should stay close to the wall (depending on swell conditions) and close to the shore to be safe while snorkeling at Black Rock
- While Ka’anapali is a relatively large beach, there is very limited shade. Pack an umbrella, hat and sunscreen if you plan to stay a while
- There are no trash cans or restrooms located near the beach so plan accordingly (pack it in, pack it out). You will find public restrooms at Whalers Village
Marine Life Snorkeling at Black Rock
I saw multiple schools of Hawaiian reef fish including convict tangs, puffer fish, goatfish, humuhumunukunukuapua’a (the Hawaiian state fish), needlefish, a white mouth moray eel, and even a barracuda! The most impressive part of snorkeling at Black Rock was getting to see the amazing underwater reef formations covered in multicolored coral. The wall is approximately 20 feet high and 50 feet long!
Cliff Jumping at Black Rock
After about 30 minutes or so, I headed back towards the beach to get a close-up look at the cliff divers. From shore, the jump does not look very intimidating, but once you get close, you can see just how high it really is. While some jumpers took a more reserved approach, many of the locals were showing off their ‘lele kawa‘ (cliff diving) skills and backflipping into the water. It was incredible to watch! Although the jump is best left to the experts and not recommended, it was just as fun to watch and encourage others.
Snorkeling at Black Rock is fantastic for all ages and abilities. This is a really fun activity on Maui. Visitors are able to easily snorkel right off the beach, enjoy the beautiful white sand, whale watching and stunning views of neighboring islands. It is a fantastic place to watch cliff jumping and to enjoy the fabulous Maui sunset. Check it out for yourself!